Melting aluminum is actually pretty easy to do, which is why it’s such a popular metal for beginners at metal casting. Building a foundry that can melt aluminum safely is another matter entirely, and one that benefits from some of the thoughtful touches that [Andy] built into his new propane-powered furnace.
The concern for safety is not at all undue, for while aluminum melts at a temperature that’s reasonable for the home shop, it’s still a liquid metal that will find a way to hurt you if you give it half a chance. [Andy]’s design minimizes this risk primarily through the hands-off design of its lid. While most furnaces have a lid that requires the user to put his or her hands close to the raging inferno inside, or that dangerously changes the center of mass of the whole thing as it opens, this one has a fantastic pedal-operated lid that both lifts and twists. Leaving both hands free to handle tongs is a nice benefit of the design, too.
The furnace follows a lot of the design cues we’ve seen before, starting as it does with an empty party balloon helium tank. The lining is a hydrid of ceramic blanket material and refractory cement; another nice safety feature is the drain channel cast into the floor of the furnace in case of a cracked crucible. The furnace is also quite large, at least compared to [Andy]’s previous DIY unit, and has a sturdy base that aids stability — another plus in the safety column.
Every time we see a new furnace design, we get the itch to start getting into metal casting. And with the barrier to entry as low as a KFC bucket or an old fire extinguisher, why not give it a try? Although it certainly pays to know what can go wrong before diving in.
Continue reading “Flip-Top Foundry Helps Manage The Danger Of Metal Casting”
Some people order their raw materials from a factory, missing out on 99% of the fun… or suffering, we’re not sure which. To make that call, you need to look in on the process [IllyriaD] used to collect magnetite sand and turn it into a wicked-looking chef’s knife.
This began by collecting 150 pounds (!) of magnetic dirt from dry lake beds while hiking using a magnet pickup tool with release lever that he got from Harbor Freight. Several repeated magnetic refining passes separated the black ore from non-metallic sands ready for the furnace that he built. That is used to fire up the raw materials using 150 pounds of charcoal, changing the chemical composition by adding carbon and resulting in a gnarly lump of iron known as a bloom.
From there, it’s just a matter of beating the iron bloom into submission over at the anvil. [IllyriaD] details the process of flattening it out to a bar shape, then folding it over. Seven total folds are made for 128 layers, and in the gallery there’s a fantastic image that captures the striation when viewed on end. After being sharpened and polished, you can see where the bevel descends through those layers.
It’s delightful to see people working through the old ways and proving you don’t need a factory, as long as your true goal is to explore the process itself. Does this leave you wanting even more? [IllyriaD] left some insight about the process in the comments of the reddit thread. You probably also want to check out the tile-roofed hut built by [PrimitiveTechnology] without any modern tools.
For poor [workshop from scratch], winter brings the joy of a cold workshop. Since the building is structurally made from tin, warming up the room is difficult.
Naturally, the solution was to construct a homemade wood furnace. The build starts off with an angle grinder being taken to a compressed air tank. After sawing off the top and sanding down the edges, the builder slices out an opening and welds together some rods into a stand for the center. He then proceeds to weld some external frames for the furnace, as well as a chimney stack, some nifty covers joined by hinges, and a fan/temperature regulator to keep the fire going.
Most of the pieces seem to come from scrap metal lying around the workshop, although the degree to which the entire project comes together is quite smooth. Some filter and spray paint do the trick for cleaning up the furnace and making it look less scrappy. The last step? A stack of wooden logs and a blow torch to start the fun. Outside of the furnace, an LCD screen keeps track of the temperature, giving some feedback and control.
The result is perhaps a too effective at warming up the workshop, but the problem sure is solved!
Continue reading “An Efficient Homemade Wood Furnace”
Blacksmiths will frequently work to a customer’s commission, and sometimes those commissions can be somewhat unusual. [Copperrein] had just such a piece of work come his way, a ceremonial sword to be made from a supplied collection of iron and steel items. To render them into something useful he had to melt them together, and the story of how he did that is particularly interesting.
We’re introduced to the Aristotle furnace, a fairly simple top-fed air blast charcoal furnace capable of melting almost any ferrous scrap into a so-called “bloom”, a lump of iron with some slag and carbon inclusions. These furnaces are often built as holes in the ground, but he’s made his atop a portable forge at working height to save bending over it for seven hours.
The source material was a very mixed bag, so the first order was to strip it in an acid bath of any coatings which might contaminate the resulting bloom. The parts, including things as diverse as a huge wrought-iton bolt, a scythe blade, and a pair of dividers, were then cut into small pieces one by one and fed into the furnace. They melt as they progress down through the furnace, resulting in a bloom of iron. The bloom is impure and will need significant working to expel any inclusions, but the final result will be something like the wrought iron of old. Let’s hope he has a power hammer, working the bloom would be hard work by hand!
If this catches your attention, you may be interested in a bit of blast furnace iron smelting. And of course, there is also our ongoing blacksmithing series to get you going at the anvil. You could even make a nail.
Thanks [Mike] for the tip.
Casting is a great way to make your own custom metal parts. However, casting requires some manner of furnace capable of generating high enough temperatures to melt the metal in question. Few of us have these just lying around, but never fear. It’s possible to build a basic gas-powered furnace at home, with commonly available materials (Youtube link, embedded below).
This furnace is the work of [Ahmed Ghr], and is as simple a build as they come. The idea is to produce a mold in which to cast concrete to create the furnace. A steel bucket is cut up and used as the outside of the mold, with a pipe inserted in the base to act as a feeder for air and gas. A plastic bucket is then inserted within the steel bucket and held in place with spacers, to create the inner combustion cavity. Concrete is poured in and allowed to set. Once finished, the steel bucket is cut away, and a fire is built over the furnace to melt away the plastic inside. Similar techniques are used to produce the lid, and the furnace is completed.
It’s a build that is executed with the most basic of tools, and should serve as a capable furnace for lower melting point metals at the very least. We’ve seen a lot of cement projects lately, as it turns out. Video after the break.
Continue reading “How To Build A Small Metal Furnace At Home”
Specialized processes require specialized tools and instruments, and processes don’t get much more specialized than the making of semiconductors. There’s a huge industry devoted to making the equipment needed for semiconductor fabrication plants, but most of it is fabulously expensive and out of reach to the home gamer. Besides, where’s the fun in buying when you can build your own fab lab stuff, like this DIY tube oven?
A tube oven isn’t much more complicated than it sounds — it’s just a tube that gets hot. Really, really hot — [Nixie] is shooting for 1,200 °C. Not just any materials will do for such an oven, of course, and this one is built out of blocks of fused alumina ceramic. The cavity for the tube was machined with a hole saw and a homebrew jig that keeps everything aligned; at first we wondered why he didn’t use his lathe, but then we realized that chucking a brittle block of ceramic would probably not end well. A smaller hole saw was used to make trenches for the Kanthal heating element and the whole thing was put in a custom stainless enclosure. A second post covers the control electronics and test runs up to 1,000°C, which ends up looking a little like the Eye of Sauron.
We’ve been following [Nixie]’s home semiconductor fab buildout for a while now, starting with a sputtering rig for thin-film deposition. It’s been interesting to watch the progress, and we’re eager to see where this all leads.
Like many of us, [Tony] was entranced by the idea of casting metal, and set about building the tools he’d need to melt aluminum for lost-PLA casting. Little did he know that he was about to exceed the limits of his system and melt a hole in his patio.
[Tony]’s tale of woe begins innocently enough, and where it usually begins for wannabe metal casters: with [The King of Random]’s homemade foundry-in-a-bucket. It’s just a steel pail with a homebrew refractory lining poured in place, with a hole near the bottom to act as a nozzle for forced air, or tuyère. [Tony]’s build followed the plans pretty faithfully, but lacking the spent fire extinguisher [The King] used for a crucible in the original build, he improvised and used the bottom of an old propane cylinder. A test firing with barbecue charcoal sort of worked, but it was clear that more heat was needed. So [Tony] got hold of some fine Welsh anthracite coal, which is where the fun began. With the extra heat, the foundry became a mini-blast furnace that melted the thin steel crucible, dumping the molten aluminum into the raging coal fire. The video below shows the near catastrophe, and we hope that once [Tony] changed his pants, he hustled off to buy a cheap graphite or ceramic crucible for the next firing.
All kidding aside, this is a vivid reminder of the stakes when something unexpected (or entirely predictable) goes wrong, and the need to be prepared to deal with it. A bucket of dry sand to smother a fire might be a good idea, and protective clothing is a must. And it pays to manage your work area to minimize potential collateral damage, too — we doubt that patio will ever be the same again.
Continue reading “Fail Of The Week: When Good Foundries Go Bad”